South Jersey congressman backs $3.9 billion utility upgrade

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 Yard crews are seen working at the access road to the PSE&G power plant in Salem, New Jersey, Tuesday, October 30, 2012. The road was flooded due to the heavy rains and winds of Hurricane Sandy. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Yard crews are seen working at the access road to the PSE&G power plant in Salem, New Jersey, Tuesday, October 30, 2012. The road was flooded due to the heavy rains and winds of Hurricane Sandy. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

A South Jersey congressman is backing a utility’s plan to beef up the electrical infrastructure in the Garden State. 

The recent arctic blast is just another reason the utility backbone needs to be strengthened, said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews. When Superstorm Sandy came through the state, thousands lost power, and that can’t happen again, he said.

“Seventy-thousand homeowners and business customers in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties were out of power for some period of time,” said Andrews. “In some cases, a very limited period of time. In others, it was quite extended.

“We were dealing with some constituents for 10 days later, as I recall,” he said. “This is a significant problem.”

Andrews is pushing for approval of a proposal from PSE&G that calls for $3.9 billion in investments over the next 10 years to strengthen the utility infrastructure.

“I know that there are questions that have to be answered about minimizing the ratepayer impact of this proposal,” he said. “There are questions about … how bills can be reduced and still do this plan. I’m confident in the Board of Public Utilities, between protecting the ratepayers, keeping rates reasonable and letting us have this investment and keeping our energy system strong.”

Critics, including the New Jersey chapter of AARP,  say ratepayers could not afford the upgrades.

The head of PSE&G said the proposed upgrades are necessary to minimize outages and ensure reliable service.

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